Thursday, March 9, 2023

Time to Unplug at Davis Mountain State Park

After 50 plus miles of a harrowing drive along TX 118 to get to Davis Mountains State Park, we missed the entrance to the park, which was along a two lane highway with nowhere to turn around, at least at first. We drove right by it. The signage was facing in a forward direction away from the way we were going, and the GPS said it was the equestrian part of the park. The name threw us a bit. It turns out it was the right place to turn in and we missed it. It may be Texas, but it sure didn't have a big sign! Once we realized our mistake, Sparky said, oh--I'll call the park and see where we were supposed to turn. Uh, NOPE! No cell signal. Now what do we do? We decided to proceed ahead to the small town of Fort Davis, hoping we would get a signal there. We did. Sparky called, got the confirmation of the exit. We turned around in the little town of Fort Davis, right down the road a few miles and headed back and once again, we lost our cell service. Dang! We were now thinking we were not going to have any phone or Internet while we were there, and we were right.

We pulled into the state park and were given a nice long site, #24. Directions were given but even so, we went down the wrong side of the pull through loop circle, due to confusing signage, so back we went around in a circle and back to our site. We had some difficulty getting level, the ground was severely sloped but we are getting pretty good at deciding board placement under the jacks to compensate for uneven ground, and we finally got to where we felt comfortable putting our slides out and settling in. We were going to stay three nights. We ended up only staying two nights, not because we were unplugged and having Internet withdrawal symptoms (well, maybe a little, says E.) but because we had misfigured our mileage to the next park and needed to leave a day early.

courtesy of the internet-Montezuma quail
Sparky went right to exploring the grounds and saw a bunch of deer the first night. Signs and photos at the ranger station said you might see bobcats, Montezuma quail, or even aoudad sheep, also called Barbary sheep. Sparky was excited to hear that! They also have TWO wildlife/bird viewing stations and the ranger told us that Barbary sheep had been seen at one of them a few days before. We never saw the sheep nor the Montezuma quail (extremely shy) while we were there, but Barbary sheep look a lot like bighorn sheep. They have brownish horns that curve up and back but they don't curl around like bighorns. They were brought to Texas in the 1950's from Africa for exotic game hunting. They flourish in the West Texas desert and share habitat with the endangered bighorn sheep. Desert bighorns died out during the 1960's due to overhunting and disease spread from domestic sheep. Texas is trying to bring them back. Both kinds of sheep compete for the same resources. The aoudads are considered an invasive species, but they bring in so much money through hunting, that it's nearly impossible to reestablish the bighorn because the ranchers don't want the Barbary (aoudad) sheep herd culled.
courtesy of the internet-Barbary sheep

Acorn woodpecker

western scrub jay
Sparky spent some time at the birding stations. Without the internet or cell phone service, time to enjoy nature. There were a wide variety of birds at the feeders. Western scrub jays, several different kinds of woodpeckers--ladderback and acorn woodpeckers, sparrows and finches were flocking at the feeders.

chipping sparrow

some kind of warbler?
Sparky really wanted to see a pyrrhuloxia--a desert cardinal, but he didn't show up at the feeders. The ranger said that the best chance of seeing one was to go out on a certain trail. This is what they look like, courtesy of the internet.

pyrruloxia-desert cardinal

Agarita on the trail
Having visited the feeders several times, Sparky got out on one of the more challenging trails in the park--the Skyline Trail. It's 2.5 miles one way and quite steep, lots of loose rocks and very narrow. She did not go to the top, which has an outstanding 360 degree view of the valley below which would be a total of over 5 miles up and back, too much for a problematic bad sciatic nerve that kicks into high gear after hikes. 

CCC Lookout shelter

If you don't care to hike it, you can drive the road version of the Skyline. It's extremely narrow, twisty but WOW! Fantastic views along the way, historic stone structures, a built CCC rest/lookout area (built by the civilian conservation corps established in the '30's).
Eldy at the lookout CCC dwelling

The Skyline HIKING trail culminates in this view at the top also. 

Sparky was glad we decided to drive to the top rather than hike it. (Not that she couldn't, but she just wasn't up for a long hike today, explains Eldo.) He's so kind, isn't he? When you have to watch your feet CONSTANTLY and worry about slipping and sliding loose rock, that kind of hiking is just not as enjoyable sometimes.

While we were at the top of the scenic Skyline Drive, we saw this yucca plant with the biggest bloom coming out. Wish we could see it at the height of its glory....The biggest blooming time in the desert comes in about two to three weeks during late March through April and we miss it every time! (Sparky does not want to be where it's getting HOT, says E.) This yucca to the right is called a mojave yucca.  Although peak blooming desert cactus time is a ways off yet, we were able to see some of the blooms and what they looked like at the Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute, a few miles outside of Fort Davis. The main building was very beautiful inside with lots of information and a little store inside. Admission was 6.50.

This non-profit organization has a botanical garden on site, a mining exhibit, and a cactus greenhouse at the back of the trails that meander through a tremendous variety of cactus, desert shrubs and trees, all labeled so you can learn about the terrific variety of desert plant life. Sparky never knew there were so many different kinds of oak trees in the southwest! The cactus greenhouse had all very small specimens or "starts" of every kind of cactus you could imagine. And LOTS of the little teeny, tiny ones were blooming prolifically. There weren't any cacti taller than about 8", most were smaller. 

If you can imagine gigantic or ordinary sized cactus with these blooms on them, it must be a fantastic spring display all over the southwest. It's hard to even imagine all the beauty of the blooms at approximately the same time. WOWZA!

We had a short two day stay in Davis Mountains State Park, but we highly recommend it for a great break from technology and an immersion into nature. There were several really great trails at the state park, deer walking around, and the possibilities of seeing many different kinds of birds and animals if you were to stay more than just a day or two. There were a couple of restaurants recommended by the desert institute, but we didn't get a chance to visit any of them. Just ask the locals, they know where the best eats are!

Next we are headed to Lake Medina Thousand Trails in Lakehills, TX tomorrow for two days. We will see some friends that we met two years ago, Ken and Donna Grenier. We  manage to hook up with lovely friends we have met since going out on the road with a little finagling of our schedules. It's so great to see nice friends again while on the road! 

A quick aside....we pulled into our overnight RV park this afternoon and got settled at the Stadium RV Park in Sonora, TX, a great overnight stop if you need one. We were welcomed by a true Texan, cowboy hat and all by the name of Mike. He met us at the front of the park, guided us in and we were settled in a VERY level gravel site. Water hoses and sewer connections provided at no extra charge. Great internet and cell service (yay!) and a super nice, friendly, funny host. 

We had no neighbors for awhile, then a fifth wheel pulled in and parked behind us. While Sparky was doing some stuff around outside, the neighbor came over and said, "You won't believe this, but you were our neighbors at Fort Davis State Park."  !!! What a coincidence! We talked to them for quite awhile and talked all things RV and travel schedules. Nice to meet you Ernie and Julie! Two E's and two J's....(Ernie and Julie, Eldon and Jeannie). We both leave tomorrow for other locations, but it just goes to show, it really is a small world and you can make new friends anywhere you go...RVing people are really friendly and outgoing, we have found. we enjoyed chatting with them very much and hope our paths cross down the road....You never know!

Bye for now.....


  1. Glad to make your news for the day!! Keep traveling and having fun!! Maybe we will see you down the road. Julie (the other “J”)

    1. Hi, Julie! thanks for commenting. My comment how to drive in went in the wrong place and I can't seem to fix it! Great to have met you guys!

  2. Great bird and flower photos. Not sure I would try this park in my big rig alone based on your first sentence. I've definitely written TX 118 down on my list of roads to AVOID. What a coincidence meeting neighbors you had for such a short time at another short stay.

    1. There was a MUCH better way to come into the state park, on Texas 17 south. We'd go that way next time!

  3. Just beautiful. Great photography and views! Well done.